James Stephens was founded in 1887 as a hurling club. The club is named after James Stephens, founding member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and took part in its first championship in 1888. The club was founded in the area of Patrick Street in Kilkenny city, an area locally known as 'the Village.' The James Stephens colours of red and green were adopted as a result of the purchase of a set of jerseys from Erin's Own at a price of 30 shillings. The club's GAA grounds are currently located in Larchfield, Kilkenny and are currently being looked after by player/caretaker Ian Hayes. A recent development was the launching of a new under17 football tournament in honour of county minor hero Paul Lynch. A huge loss to the club was when Peter Butler resigned, some say this is why the minor hurling team had no success, his return was marked by the team winning the football final, a true club hero.
The club recently celebrated its 125 year anniversary with a book entitled ‘From the Arch to the Pump, James Stepehns GAA club 1887-2012’ written by Tommy Lanigan.